Viennese IBM i Anniversary and Birthday Celebrations

Vienna, Austria, June  2018

The 2018 COMMON Europe trip was divided up into two very distinct segments.

The first half occurred in Warsaw, you can read about it here.

The second half, which occurred immediately after Warsaw was an entirely different experience.   Larry Bolhuis (current President of COMMON U.S.)  and I were guests of Christoph Cuscoleca, who is the Technical Director of COMMON Europe and a member of COMMON Austria.  Christoph had booked two different speaking events for us.

From AS/400 to IBM i, Happy 30th Anniversary

As part of our first full day in Vienna we attended a 30th Anniversary party of IBM i.  It was held at the Restaurant Waldgrill Cobenzl,  just outside of Vienna.  Attending the event was the one and only Dr. Frank Soltis, the Father of the AS/400.  Frank, Larry and I were to speak at the event.   What made this day extra special is that our event took place on the actual 30th anniversary, June 21st.    My topic was my personal evolution with AS/400 into IBM i.

I remarked how, no matter where I go, clients tell me how they all say they received the “first” system ever shipped.  I then asked Frank to clarify this.  He jokingly replied that IBM told everyone that they received the first one 😊.

The cake(s) – At each event was a cake created in the likeness of AS/400 or IBM i.   At this event the cake was presented in the black box red-striped incarnation.   It was fun to see all the creativity and to re-live all of the different moments in the system evolution.

Meeting everyone – as always, the best part is moving from table to table and connecting with all of the attendees.  It’s striking how similar our technology and specifically IBM i stories are, regardless of where in the world we live.

One particular gentleman had a fascinating story to share, Mr. Arnulf Oplusstil.  He told me how he attended the COMMON conference in 1964!  Impressive indeed!


The IT Students

Christoph is an instructor at The Schule for IT.   At the COMMON Europe Congress there were several of Christoph’s students from Austria.    Some of these students attended my sessions.  I enjoyed chatting with them and discussing their futures in IT.   Since Larry and I booked the same return flights to Austria as them, we had additional opportunities to chat with them along the way.  They are all graduating next week with degrees in Systems Administration or Engineering. They are all set to enter the workforce.

Speaking at the High School

On Friday we had the opportunity to visit a high school BG/BRG Klosterneuburg and be part of the “IT – Live on Stage” event.  This was a special year as it was the event’s 10th anniversary.   The same as the night before, Frank, Larry and I offered presentations to the students.   Many of the students who were present had just graduated.  Joining them were Christoph’s students from the college.   Everyone gave us their rapt attention.  My topic was Passion and The IBM i Community, what it was and how I came to be part of it.

Passion in your career –  My story of how I first learned RPG in Manhattan is so intertwined with my living in New York City that these stories must be told together.   I explained how NYC is configured, the five boroughs and how it was to grow up there.   I discussed my love of The Twin Towers and how they affected my life.

Bi-directional inspiration – After my presentation two students raised their hands and asked very interesting questions.  Tizion B. asked, “How do you know when you finally find your passion?”  and Helene V. asked, “How does your family support your passion?”

To Tizion, it’s just one of those things.  When there is nothing that can be put in your way to stop you from doing what you really want to do.  You feel it in your heart and you feel it in your bones.  For me, it was computers.

To Helene, your question gave me pause.  How does a family support our passion?  After some reflection here is my response.  Families can support us by enabling, that is to say giving us opportunities that encourage us.  For example, letting us be around people who share our passions is an excellent start.   When you surround yourself with like-minded people, everyone grows.  You might even find a mentor who can provide real-world experience, unlike anything you will ever learn from a textbook.   Another example is to watch how your own parents engage in their own passions.  This is a good model to see how time can be set aside for what is truly important.   And finally, giving you time to search and learn what you are actually passionate about.

When the event was over, I had another discussion with two recent graduates, Ferdinand B. and Sebastian Z.  I was delighted that they told me how my little story had inspired them.  The topic of passion came up once again.  These young men were heading off to study technology at their newly selected universities.  Clearly they had found their own passions and were willing to vigorously pursue them.

Whenever I meet young people who are so sure of what they want, and equally as important, of what they don’t want, I take away such unexpected yet very welcome inspiration.  It is extremely important to be reminded that there are so many young people in the world who are grounded and will keep advancing us all in a positive direction.   I find it very disconcerting how many people maintain a dim view of the next generations.  Yes, there are those who are followers and not leaders, but there is always a need for these types of people as well.  Be it in Vienna, Europe in general, the United States or anywhere else, I am quite confident we are in very good hands with their upcoming stewardship.

In Search of Mozart

Ever since I’ve seen both the play and movie Amadeus I’ve been fascinated with his life and music.  He was a genius, no doubt.  But his life which ended in mystery at age 35 continues to fascinate scholars.

One of the best moments of my Vienna visit was when I was outside the Mozarthaus.    We only had about 30 minutes remaining for sightseeing before our next meeting, so clearly there was no time for a formal museum visit.  I did however go inside and asked one of the staff members about the significance of Mozart in this location.   He told me to stay for a visit. When I explained my time constraint, he grabbed my arm and said, “Come with me.”  He then brought me inside to the center of the lobby entrance and said, “Take some quick pictures.  Mozart lived and worked here.”  I quickly took the pictures, absorbed the moment for what it was, thanked him and left.

During my stay in Vienna I was determined to walk in his steps and maybe catch a glimpse of what inspired him.   Instead, I was thrilled to actually get to meet him, and not some guy in a costume!  😊


Happy Birthday Christoph – another day, another treat (and  another cake!)

On Saturday evening we attended Christoph’s birthday party at his apartment.   It was great meeting and spending time with his family and friends.   And of course, his lovely wife Vivienne.

After we took a group photo Christoph declared that I must take a selfie.  So I did 😊.

Another of my favorite parts of my trip was having the opportunity to meet Christoph’s mother, Yvonne.   We immediately connected and told each other lots of fun stories.  I feel like I’ve known her my whole life.  Christoph is indeed a very lucky person to have such a mom!


Heading home

As always, all good things must come to an end.  My week in both Warsaw and Vienna was amazing.   Seeing old friends and making so many new ones.  And, yes, of course, Larry even found his name written on an elevator wall when we returned to the airport.





Reflections of COMMON Europe 2018

Warsaw, Poland – June 2018

I’m off!

Leaving from JFK in New York and I’m full of optimism.  I know it’s going to be a long set of flights, with a three-hour layover in Amsterdam.   But I challenge myself to keep smiling, knowing that I will be seeing my good friends once I’ve arrived.

Mid-flight checkup

It’s always a strange concept to me of crossing six-time zones in such a short amount of time.  Trying to fall asleep when it is only 8 PM in your brain is difficult.   As a result, you keep waking up.   Obviously, your wear eye shades to simulate night.At one point I woke up and took a photo, just to see how ridiculous I looked and to prove to myself I could keep smiling.


Journeying on

Seven hours later we are in Amsterdam.   It was already 6 AM when I arrived, and very cloudy outside.   Another flight later I finally arrived in Warsaw.

Warsaw’s Old Town

Warsaw has an interesting history, with its citizens having to rebuild their entire city after World War II.  But rebuild they did, and what was created is nothing short of spectacular.  A true testament to the human spirit.

Old Town was easily walk-able from our hotel.  Some of my little tour included an outdoor park with gorgeous statues, a tomb of the unknown soldier, churches and of course unlimited European architecture.   You can learn more about Old Town’s history here.


The European Congress

Like other years, this conference included some of the most respected industry speakers with a very wide breadth of IBM i topics.   It was two and a half days long with over fifty high quality sessions.  Topics included application development, testing, database, IBM i future directions and system administration.    This organization is run entirely by very committed volunteers from all over Europe, and it shows.  If anything had gone awry it wasn’t obvious.   The common message was clear – this is a high-quality event that is worth attending, year after year.   To learn more about the COMMON European Congress click here.


Opening and closing events

Ranga Deshpande, the President of COMMON Europe offered the conference kickoff, followed by IBMers Alison Butterill, Ian Jarmin and Steve Will.   Their presentations focused on the vitality of the platform and how well it remains positioned to be the best application system for all different sized businesses.    Steve Will made an excellent point during his discussion –  very few technology companies provide the level of immediate access to their top executives that IBM does, fostering engaging business conversations.  Discussions where the executives are truly listening to the people who are in the trenches every day, using the technology to make their organizations prosper.  Alison, Ian and Steve shared customer stories from all over the globe.  To be sure, this was an exciting and fascinating opening session.

The closing event included a celebration to 30 years of innovation, from the birth of the AS/400 to today’s completely modern IBM i.  No closing celebration is complete without a celebratory cake, and IBM didn’t disappoint us.

Celebration dinner

On Tuesday evening we were treated to a wonderful celebration event at Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.  This building included an observation deck and a massive indoor marbled area.   It was a fun night and I was very happy to be there.   You can learn more about the Palace of Culture by clicking here.

COMMON European Congress 2019

The COMMON European Congress rotates its location each year and this year is no exception.   It was announced that next year’s Congress will be in Berlin, Germany.   This is being done in partnership with COMMON Germany.

Saving the best for last

Yes, the sights were beautiful, and the food was delicious.  But nothing compares to the friendly conversations with friends, old and new. Be it conference attendees,  flight attendants, taxi drivers or hotel staff, meeting and chatting with people is the best.   It takes so little effort to strike up a conversation and there is ALWAYS something we have in common (no pun intended), even though we are separated by thousands of miles.